Crystal Allen's Reviews > Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Stiff by Mary Roach
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's review
Jul 10, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction
Read in July, 2009

A few years back Body World came to Vancouver and my husband, sister in law and I went to see it. If you are not familiar with Body World it is a touring exhibition of cadavers who have been plastisized posed in different positions doing different activities like skateboarding and swinging, even having sex if I remember correctly. We were there on the eve of the last day that the exhibit was in town. As we were walking through I saw a woman on a bench crying and husband was consoling her. It was right next to a giant blow up of the consent form that you can fill out if you would like your body to be donated to Body World once you die. I went over and looked at the form. After I was there for a minute or so I went over to my husband and sister.

"Do you see that woman over there crying?" I asked.

"Yes," they responded.

"I was reading the consent form over there and I overheard her and her husband talking. Her father's body is here on exhibit and she is really upset because this is the last time she will be able to see him before his body leaves on tour with the exhibit. She is saying her last goodbyes."

The two of them looked at me with there mouths dropped open and their eyes as big as saucers. "Really! That's awful." Myra said.

"But really interesting in a twisted kind of way." My husband said.

"No I'm just kidding," I responded. "I couldn't make out what the were saying. I sure did get you guys though!"

My point in telling this story (besides thinking that it is one of the funniest pranks I ever pulled) is that I think that most of us have some kind of morbid curiousity about death. If you fall in this category than this book is for you.

Who knew that so many things could be done with a body after death? Most of us think of burial, cremation and possibly having our organs donated. A few that really stick out to me are donating your body to be a cadaver for anatomy students at med school, becoming a crash test dummy and sitting in a field and rotting to help CSI's learn the timeline of a bodies decomposition in different conditions.

If you lived hundreds of years ago you could have decided to die young, feast on nothing but honey for several weeks until you died, then been put in a casket of honey where you would sit for a hundred years then they would open your casket, cut you in little pieces and eat you to remedy numerous medical conditions.

This book gave me a lot to think about and brought up many discussions between myself and my husband.

I for one have decided that after having my organs donated (if I die in a way that that is possible) then I would like to have my body frozen using nitrogen oxide, then cracked into a million little pieces using ultrasonic waves, flash frozen and then have the pieces used a fertilizer to plant a tree in my memory.

Read this book to learn the many ways that bodies have continued to be useful after death throughout the ages. Make sure to read the footnotes they are often even more interesting than the text!
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